Chickpea and Wild Rice Mulligatawny & Lunch Wars

mulligatawny-3

I finished reading Amy Kalafa’s book, Lunch Wars, a few days ago. The book is about improving the food served in school cafeterias, and it was impossible not to think about my own school lunches as I read. In elementary school, I always felt bad for the kids who had to eat the hot lunch. It was absolutely disgusting. I remember one time I forgot my lunch and had to get the spaghetti. It was mushy and tasted like can. I sat there and cried, refusing to eat any more after the bite. Back in those days, at least in my school, there weren’t a lot of options in the cafeteria. You got whatever the lunch that day was and, if you were lucky and had an extra quarter, maybe you’d get an ice cream sandwich. But by high school, things changed. There were nachos. And pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (Yes, pints. I don’t know what they were thinking!) One year, a local pizzeria ran the kitchen and the only food available was pizza. Every day. Seriously? With the exception of the pizza year, I have no idea if there was a traditional hot lunch option. If there was, no one ever got it. Why would they? The junk food was good, and that spaghetti was nasty.

Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts

baked apple cider donut

baked apple cider donut

Fall is officially here, which means one thing – it’s time for apple cider doughnuts! These doughnuts are one of my absolute favorite fall traditions. They’re light and airy and bursting with the warm flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg and the sweetness of perfectly ripe apples. At my favorite orchard, it’s not uncommon for the wait for freshly fried doughnuts to be over half an hour long. Luckily, they’re easy (and healthier!) to make at home – and you don’t need any special equipment. (Although if you read to the end, you’ll find a nice giveaway waiting for you.)

I keep seeing recipes for baked doughnuts that require a special “doughnut pan.”  Sure, a pan makes a pretty, even, and smooth finished product – but it also takes up valuable space in the kitchen! No thanks. My freeform doughnuts might not be as pretty as the ones baked in a pan, but they taste the same. Just make sure to flour your work surface liberally; the dough is very soft and had a tendency to stick.

Jalapeno Popper Mac and Cheese

jalapeno popper mac and cheese-2

jalapeno popper mac and cheese on blue plate

This jalapeno popper macaroni and cheese is probably the best thing that’s ever come out of my kitchen.

There’s not much more to say about it than that. I mean, I could go on about how how rich and creamy and cheesy it is. How the thick sauce that clings to each piece of pasta tastes like someone just squeezed the guts out of your favorite bar poppers and called it “sauce.” How I kept running back to the kitchen as I waited for the pasta to finish cooking because I couldn’t stop sneaking tastes.

Ground Chicken and Eggplant Lettuce Wraps

chicken and eggplant lettuce wraps

This recipe for ground chicken and eggplant lettuce wraps was inspired by the menu at P.F. Changs. They have a similar chicken and eggplant dish that’s one of the best things I’ve ever ordered at a Chinese restaurant. My recipe is pretty different from theirs, but it captures my favorite components of the original — especially the contrast of sweet, spicy, and salty flavors and the way the tender eggplant practically melts in your mouth. Adjust the amount of chili paste to suit your desired level of spiciness, or leave it out and allow each diner to add it directly to their own portion to accommodate a variety of tastes.

Gingersnap S’mores from The Cookiepedia

gingerbread_smores

It’s no secret that I love cookies. Ever since I was kid, they’ve been my favorite dessert (okay, they might be ties with ice cream as my favorite). Mom had an old cookbook devoted entirely to cookies that was always fun to look through. Every holiday season, we’d pull it out and decide what we wanted to make – they were all good. Unfortunately that book is long out of print (she got it at a yard sale, and it looked pretty old even then). So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that a new cookie-themed cookbook was coming out, right in time for cool autumn nights that call for fresh from the oven cookies.

The Cookiepedia, by Stacy Adimando definitely doesn’t disappoint. First off, the book is adorable! From it’s brown paper bag cover to the bright colors and cute illustrations to the spiral binding that lays flat on the counter, this book is really nicely put together.

Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Dip

eggplant_pepper_dip

The first time I made baba ganoush was almost exactly two years ago. Since then, I don’t think a month has gone by that Shawn hasn’t asked me to make it again. I don’t blame him; the stuff is good! Roast eggplant is the perfect base for a creamy, low fat dip.

I knew that I wanted to use this technique in the collection of 5 New Eggplant Ideas that I created for Tablespoon.com, but I also wanted to put a new twist on it. I swapped out the tahini and cumin for roasted red peppers and smoked paprika. The resulting dip had a velvety texture and a sweet, smokey flavor. It didn’t resemble baba ganoush at all, but it was just as delicious.